Pupils hurt in ‘rush'

2015-10-17 14:32
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Pietermaritzburg - The exuberance of Maritzburg College’s last day “rush” soon snowballed into a violent ordeal for pupils when matrics allegedly began assaulting younger pupils on Thursday.

Angry and upset parents and pupils reported the scenes to Weekend Witness, saying that pupils “feared for their lives” while running for safety to hide behind nearby bushes and buildings.

One of the school’s annual traditions is for matriculants to run through the school corridors and grounds celebrating their last day of classes.

Rumours were rife on Friday that at least three pupils were hospitalised, one with a concussion and another with a broken leg. However, College headmaster Chris Luman denied that any boys were hospitalised, saying that “there were certainly no broken legs as suggested”.

Luman said that 10 boys were treated for minor injuries by the school’s nursing staff at the school sanatorium.

“These injuries were incurred when a small minority of matric boys ran into other groups of boys from various grades. Our senior staff sister has … spoken to the parents of the injured boys and has been assured that they are all fully recovered, and that they are satisfied with the steps taken by the school,” said Luman.

One pupil said pupils fled, looking for a safe place to hide with some Grade 8 pupils running out of the school to the nearby Harry Gwala Stadium to take refuge from the marauding matrics there.

“It was quite terrifying. Children were being punched and pushed around. Some were very seriously injured when they were trying to climb the palisade fencing to get to safety,” alleged the pupil.

A parent, who asked to remain unnamed, said her son climbed onto the school roof for safety.

Luman said the school does not condone this type of behaviour under any circumstances. “This behaviour is certainly not a tradition of the school, and as a result of [Thursday’s] incident, four matriculants have been appropriately disciplined.”

He added that the school, like other schools nationally and internationally, does experience occasional incidents of silly and inappropriate behaviour among matric boys at this time of the year.

“We pride ourselves on the excellent pastoral care offered to our pupils in our efforts to provide a safe and nurturing environment. We can assure all current and prospective parents that all forms of abusive or demeaning behaviour will not be tolerated at College,” added Luman.

A former Maritzburg College pupil whose name Weekend Witness will not reveal to protect the identity of his brother who attends school there, raised concern over the direction the school is taking in terms of controlling pupils’ conduct. He said during his five years as a College boy, nothing like this had happened.

“We did have our run raid but it was done in a more proper way. We ran through the school. It was an ecstatic moment, but we never targeted anyone or harmed any student,” he said.

He said what happened this year was a “distortion of tradition of the school”.

“In our year we had giant guys who played rugby, but they never ran over us, they just ran around the school screaming to show their excitement.”

He said his brother, who attends Maritzburg College, had his knee injured.

Another parent said her son was injured during the rush.

“This is bullying at its worst. This is very disappointing as our kids ran for their lives,” said the parent.

KZN Education Department spokesperson Sihle Mlotshwa said it was an unfortunate incident.

“We will ask the district to look further into this matter and we will know what action should be taken when we have a full report,” he said.

The Harry Gwala regional Sadtu secretary Willy Naidoo, in response to this incident, said the Education Department and the union strongly condemn practices that undermine the integrity of individual rights.

He said that matriculants remain pupils of a school until they receive their matric results the following year and should conduct themselves appropriately.

Naidoo called for the school and the Education Department to take urgent action against the perpetrators.

A local psychologist, Clive Willows, said that this incident as well as a recent incident at Hilton College, is a reminder that we do live in a violent society.

This week, a group of Hilton College boys staged a picture of them performing a sexual act on another pupil dressed in a St Anne’s uniform.

Willows says this type of behaviour is “totally unacceptable” and is of great concern.

“Apart from teaching children about science and maths, we should also be teaching them social living. Obviously what is in the school curriculum now surrounding social skills is failing,” said Willows.

He said it was very important that all levels of society take a stand surrounding these incidents.

Further to that, he said that current pupils need to be reassured of their safety for their future at Maritzburg College.

“The consequences these boys would face should be constructive and healing and should send a message to future matriculants.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  education

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